If someone asked me what are the top five most nutritious foods on the plant, I would absolutely include liver in the list.
Let’s say you were limited to eating five foods for the rest of your life. While liver might not be an immediate choice for its acquired taste, it’s important to take into consideration for its nutrient density.
Liver is what I call a “super food.” This just means that gram for gram, it’s a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and other goodies.
Liver is one of the organ meats, also known as offal, which are the most nutritious parts of the animal. Moreover, eating nose-to-tail is sustainable for the planet! Finally, offal is amongst the cheapest cuts of meat, making it budget-friendly to purchase from good sources. Organ meats include heart, kidney, brain, and cheeks.
Today’s focus is on the liver. Liver is one of the healthiest organ meats you can eat, and it’s also one of the tastiest. In fact, I’ve rounded up some of the most delicious recipes that will help you enjoy the taste of liver. It’s ALL about what foods to combine with liver (e.g. onions, bacon and sweet fruits), the texture you create, and the right spices. Trust me, liver can be enjoyable!
For now, let’s talk about the five main reasons you should include liver in your diet.
1. It’s rich with vitamin A.
Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin, mainly found in carrots, red peppers, oranges and warm-coloured things. It is an antioxidant – a common characteristic of many of liver’s desirable properties – making it important for natural detox and reduction of free radical damage plus healthy skin, vision, and strong bones. Eating liver basically makes our body detox machines because its most potent properties are primarily antioxidants!
Many functions of our immune system rely on enough vitamin A to work properly. It plays an important role in cancer prevention and management of autoimmune disease. Its antioxidant properties also make it a powerful anti-inflammatory vitamin, so liver is a great choice for folks who want to cut back on inflammation and heal the gut.
One caveat is that liver is very high in vitamin A, so you don’t need to gorge on it in large amounts and on daily basis. Just a little bit of liver here and there would be a great vitamin A supplement to your diet.
2. It’s a fantastic source of iron.
Did you know that iron is one of the most common deficiencies? If you suffer from anaemia, you know the struggle. It’s not a particularly easy thing to get from food sources, and your body can’t really utilise the benefits of the average iron supplement making it slightly difficult for some people to address with success. It’s also difficult for the body to use from plant sources compared to animal sources.
Getting enough iron can make a massive difference in having sustained energy throughout the day, improving circulation, and maintaining a comfortable body temperature. It’s especially important for circulation because it aids in the formation of hemoglobin and helps to transport oxygen efficiently. It also improves muscle function and brain function.
3. Liver is chock full of vitamin B12.
Another very common deficiency is vitamin B12. It’s mostly found in animal foods such as oily fish, pastured eggs, and you guessed it… liver! Many plant-based eaters end up needing to supplement with B12 because it’s rare in plant foods, and it’s far more available to the body from animal foods. Alongside both iron and another B vitamin, folate, this can be a tremendously effective trio for treating anaemia (prolonged iron deficiency).
Considering the powerful and unique blend of vitamins and minerals you receive from just a few doses of liver per week and just how much they can impact long-term health, it’s safe to say this is one of the most potent combinations you can find in nature.
4. It contains COQ10.
COQ10 is an essential element that each and every single cell in our body needs and uses. It acts as an antioxidant and is mainly used in treatment and prevention of the negative effects that oxidative stress has on the heart and cardiovascular health. It’s also particularly helpful for folks with inflammation or disease that causes inflammation. Finally, our cells need COQ10 to turn nutrients into energy. It’s not considered a vitamin just because our bodies product some of it on their own, but it’s one of the few supplements that I recommend to people.
Of course, I almost always recommend food sources of vitamins and minerals before I recommend it in supplement form. Liver and other organ meats contain the most COQ10 of any food, and animal foods are particularly potent because their vitamins and minerals are so bioavailable and easy for our bodies to use. Additional benefits of COQ10 may include increased endurance, enhanced ability to absorb other nutrients, and better blood sugar stability.
5. It supports the processes of your liver.
The next time someone tries to sell you some sort of detox juice or powder, tell them you’ve got what you need already – your liver! As long as your liver and kidneys are working well, your body is having absolutely no trouble maintaining its regular detox schedule. Of course, you can feed your body natural whole foods to help things stay in tip-top shape. Liver-loving foods are antioxidant-rich which can help reduce oxidative stress, prevent connective tissue buildup that leads to inflammation, and improve the liver’s ability to protect itself while improving its immune response and antioxidant response.
Unsurprisingly, eating liver is good for your liver. It only makes sense, right? When your liver detoxes, it essentially cleans the toxins are body takes in for processing, making them safe. Liver – the food – contains B vitamins (e.g. folate) that really enhance the work of our cells while also providing the liver with a healthy dose of the essential nutrients it needs to function well. When we treat our cellular health and organ health with care, we can really ensure that things are working within from the ground up. This is one of my favourite approaches to health, and why I love foods like liver!
What type of liver should I eat?
Technically speaking, you could eat the liver of any animal. Some are more common than others. You’ve likely seen chicken liver the most often with the occasional spotting of beef liver or lamb’s liver.
Lamb’s liver, calf’s liver, and chicken liver all have very similar nutritional properties. Per 100 gram serving, you can expect about 17 grams of protein and around 50% of your daily dose of iron (although lamb’s liver has slightly more iron). Liver is a pretty low-fat food at around 5 grams per serving. I recommend cooking it in a healthy fat so your body can absorb all of that beautiful vitamin A! Speaking of vitamin A, a single serving of liver provides you with 100% of your daily needs.
Considering its potency, overconsumption of liver can lead to vitamin A toxicity, so keep your servings to a few times per week or a small amount daily. To get started, I recommend to include liver once a week.
How to supplement with liver without actually eating it
If you really can’t get down with the taste of liver and you’re still hoping to reap the benefits (specifically vitamins A and D), there’s still an option for you! I always recommend fermented cod liver oil which is exactly what it sounds like. Essentially, it’s a stronger version of fish oil which we know is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. Fermented cod liver oil has that vitamin A, and even some vitamin D that your body can really use! Fish oil isn’t as bioavailable, so using its liver-loving alternative is a great way to supplement for optimal health. Do note that cod liver oil doesn’t have the iron and the B12 vitamin like the organ meat itself.
Fermented cod liver oil doesn’t exactly have a pleasant taste, but you can take it in smaller doses and it’s much less painful than choking down liver and onions if you don’t have the taste for it. This is a good brand of fermented cod liver oil on Amazon!
Do you include liver in your paleo diet? It’s one of nature’s most nutritious foods, and it’s actually quite delicious once you learn how to use it in recipes. I hope you learnt something new about this fabulous ingredient today!